• Mitigate Forklift Wear and Tear: 5 Parts to Regularly Inspect

    A forklift’s job is to keep your operations moving – in many companies, forklifts are doing that around the clock. Because a forklift’s parts, components, and accessories are constantly moving, they inevitably develop wear and tear that, over time, hinder the equipment’s productivity and overall performance.

    When your lift truck isn’t functioning at its best, you’re losing time and money to increased downtime. Not maintaining wear and tear can also create an unsafe work environment – the machine could cause injury to its operator, and internal combustion trucks could give off harmful emissions that can negatively impact your workers’ health.

    To get as much life as possible out of your forklift, look in these five places that are especially vulnerable to wear and tear:

    1. Tires

    Forklift tires are designed to be durable and hold a lot of weight, but just like with car tires, need to be replaced when they’re worn out. Bad tires can cause truck and load stability issues, discomfort to operators, damage to forks and undercarriage components, and even facility damage. Here are a few things to look for that indicate you may need to replace your tires:

    • Worn low: Most forklift tires have a clearly-defined line beneath the tread, often referred to as the 50 percent wear line. If you are close to or have worn through that line, it is time to replace the tire.

    • Tearing: Look for obvious tears and punctures on the surface of your tires. This type of damage is often caused by running the forklift over debris – a clean and well-swept workspace helps prevent tearing.

    • Chunking: If pieces of your tires are breaking or peeling off the body, it is time to replace them. Chunking renders the wheel useless, causing truck instability and operator discomfort.

    • Flat Spots: Flattening typically occurs when the forklift brakes at high speeds. If you notice any bald spots, the tire should be replaced. If the abrupt braking continues more frequently, the operator likely needs re-trained on safe operation of the forklift at reasonable speeds. Frequent sharp halts will not only make you replace your tires sooner than expected but also your brakes.

    • Bond Failure: Cushion tires have a central metal band with the rubber of the tire bonded to the metal band. If wear and tear near the band is bad enough that you can fit a flat screwdriver head or knife between the tire and band, you are overdue to switch out your tires.

    • Oil or Grease Stains: The chemicals in oil and grease can eat away at tire rubber over time. Oil or grease on the tires can also hazardously affect control of the forklift. If you see these types of stains, inspect your facility floor and clean the affected areas to avoid other potential hazards.

    2. Oil and Air Filters

    Your forklift’s oil and air filters protect the engine from preventable damage. A functional air filter keeps dirt and debris from affecting the engine’s performance, and the oil filter ensures clean oil is running through the engine; contaminated oil can increase engine component friction. Both should be replaced at recommended intervals to maintain maximum efficiency.

    If you notice you need to replace air filters at a frequent rate, consider investing in solutions to improve the cleanliness of your facility – if it’s affecting your equipment, it’s definitely affecting your operators, too!

    3. Mast and Chains

    A forklift’s mast and chains experience heavy and frequent demands when in operation. This stress to the machine means these components should be inspected and replaced regularly to maintain safety and efficiency.

    The mast is the vertical apparatus at the front of the forklift that allows a load to be raised, lowered, and tilted. One clear sign of wear and tear is metal-on-metal contact. If you hear grinding noises during operation or see visible scrape marks, it may be time to replace the mast.

    Forklift chains can perform for thousands of hours of work if properly lubricated. If you notice rust, plate cracking, protruding or turned pins, or broken links, the chain needs to be replaced. These issues can be prevented with proper lubrication.

    4. Battery

    If you have an electric forklift, battery maintenance is of the utmost importance in maximizing efficiency and minimizing lifetime costs. Batteries have a finite number of charging cycles, so sticking to a charging schedule is critical to maximizing a battery’s life and usefulness – not enough charge at the beginning of a shift means more downtime, and charging too frequently could risk shortening the battery’s life.

    For optimal battery performance, regular fluid level checks are necessary. If there is not enough fluid in the battery, you will need to add water – water typically needs to be added every 10 charges. Watering batteries can be a delicate process, as both the type and amount of water are integral in making the battery work well.

    MH Equipment can help you increase your battery’s life with preventative maintenance services and battery watering, as well as charger inspections and repair, on all brands of batteries.

    5. Forks

    A lift truck’s forks experience stress with each load. While they are heavy-duty in construction, they will still wear out over time. Waiting too long to replace worn-out forks will likely lead to more-frequent accidents, such as dropped loads, damaged products, and workplace injuries. Fortunately, these accidents are preventable with regular fork inspections. Here are five critical signs of wear and tear that tell you it’s time to replace or restore your forks:

    • Surface cracks: Over time, forks can develop cracks from picking up, unloading, and transporting heavy loads. The parts of the fork closest to the equipment and the fork heel tend to obtain the most wear and tear.

    • Bent or worn fork hooks: Using a caliper, checks the hooks for wear and straightness. If the lip of the hook touches the back of the caliper, you should replace your forks.

    • More than 10 percent wear: The metal on forks gradually wears down with consistent use, but eventually the forks can no longer handle their original load capacity. Just 10 percent wear can reduce your load capacity by 20 percent, at which point the forks should be replaced. Metal wear is not obvious to notice over time – use calipers to measure the shaft, and compare that measurement to the thickness of the fork blade, heel, and hook to calculate the wear.

    • Uneven blade height: The tips of both forklift blades should roughly be the same height. If one of the forks differs by more than three percent of the blade length, the forks need to be replaced.

    • ·Bent blade or shank: All forks are delivered with a 90-degree angle. The forks need to be replaced if the blades or shanks are bent more than 93 degrees – while it may look fixed, simply bending the fork back into place will not repair it, as the integrity of the fork is already compromised.

    Proper maintenance is the best way to mitigate the harmful effects of wear and tear and increase the longevity of your lift truck.

    Regular maintenance can lead to these benefits:

    • A higher resale value

    • A safer work environment for operators and other workers

    • Improved performance of the forklift’s attachments, accessories, and components

    • Reduced downtime and increased productivity

    • Cost reductions from identifying smaller problems early on that could potentially lead to larger, costlier problems in the future

    Choosing the right partner for high-quality service and responsible recommendations is the first step to combating that inevitable wear and tear. MH Equipment’s certified service technicians can repair all makes and models of material handling equipment and are entrusted to provide recommendations that are right for you and your business. We will also come alongside you to design a service plan that works for you to keep your equipment doing its job and doing it well.

    Contact us today to help stop wear and tear from impacting your business.

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